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ITS America urges greater international co-operation on ITS

First publishedin ITS International
2011 July August
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Iteris, Inc,'s Abbas Mohaddes

Iteris, Inc.'s Abbas Mohaddes talks about his plans for ITS America this year

Amplification and expansion of already existing outreach and education efforts are the cornerstones of Abbas Mohaddes' strategy for his time as chair of the ITS America Board of Directors.

The president and CEO of Iteris, Inc. sees a fine modern history on which to build, he says.

"This year strategies include new and enhanced member services as well as an expanded education effort for a broader audience, working through such opportunities as this year's ITS World Congress and ITS America Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida as well as other channels." Advocacy of advanced mobility and safety programmes which embrace the use of technology, in line with reauthorisation of the Federal Transportation Bill, will form a major part of his agenda.

"In particular," he states, "I want to see greater involvement in projects which measure and articulate ITS benefits that will include a large element of international cooperation with ITS Japan and Ertico - ITS Europe. We will reach out to organisations worldwide which share common areas of application."

Member services

"Travel information services, transportation system performance measurement/management, together with Connected Vehicle are particular areas which are gaining traction. From a technology standpoint, ITS America will be looking to offer adequate emphasis to help members move these technologies forward. It's an appropriate task in light of reauthorisation, to advocate strongly for the implementation of ITS technology and services in all infrastructure improvement programmes, be they at the local, state or federal level.

"In many respects, this all represents a continuation of activities which the Society has undertaken in recent years.

Reauthorisation heightens awareness, however." "We are also expanding our role and activities regarding standards, an area that our members welcome and benefit from. I truly believe that advancement and collaboration in international standards directly correlates with the success of ITS in broad and area-wide deployments"

Advocacy and education

Advocacy and education are areas which need significant expansion, according to Mohaddes.

"In the last few years we have done a good job on the legislative outreach front and we need to build on that and magnify it. As an organisation, we don't have the resources to mount mass-media campaigns. That means we have to be more creative in terms of outreach. We're going to be looking to identify projects which will allow us to do that with members, city councils and the like; this year, the more ITS projects we can get involved, in light of the upcoming Transportation Bill, the more people will benefit. To an extent, that work will again build on the excellent relationships which we already have.

"Reauthorisation represents something of a frustration. Over the last two or three years, the politicians of the day and economic downturn have combined to muddy the waters on the benefits of ITS - and, indeed, on infrastructure as a whole getting the attention it needs and deserves. The delays to reauthorisation illustrate that as well as anything else.

"There are other pressing issues, such as healthcare reform, which go some way to making that more understandable but we hope with outreach that we can in some way turn the corner. At the end of the day, what creates jobs? Infrastructure is very important - it's a lifeline, in fact, the main artery of the economy.

If you're going to try and transfer goods from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach you're going to encounter a lot of adversity if you don't have the proper infrastructure. Application of technology is a vital element of that, and for that to happen we need proper funding."

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Abbas Mohaddes talking about his approachs for ITS America

International links

"At the last couple of World Congresses in particular I've observed that all parties have a real energy and enthusiasm for greater collaboration," Mohaddes continues. "ITS is a global matter, and specifically in Busan there were several meetings which focused on improving international links. The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between ITS America and ITS Russia was a notable event.

"In Orlando, we're planning to amplify and expand on such developments. There's already a great deal of cooperation between the 'traditional' markets such as North America, Europe and Asia.

But we also have to look at the Middle East, at South America and Africa, because there is common cause wherever you go.

Whether that will result in closer alignment of different regions' research, development, and deployment programmes is less clear, however.

"You need to understand local geographies, geo-political situations, different cultural approaches to implementation and the different standards which are out there," says Mohaddes.

"Recognising that drives focus on two levels. There are some specific standards where collaboration is possible, and we should look to expand upon the work that's already gone on. Better integration of communications and vehicle technologies is going to help all regions of the world, without doubt, but there will still be differences.

"However, collaboration on end-user education belongs in the political arena. There we can gain consensus, set up common programmes and amplify the similarities. Moreover, when it comes to making programmes' results measurable there are some very good opportunities to improve standards."

Opportunities and challenges

"ITS America has itself already passed through several processes of evolution. It continues to evolve and fine-tune its role. It's succeeding beyond its original plan in identifying new members and forging coalitions.

"It's still very young but the Society today is a much more recognisable entity in both public and private forums. It's a path leader in terms of technology and its application across all spheres of transportation. Members of the board and other staff members continue to work to bring end-users, the media and others together, and at Annual Meeting and World Congresses we've seen measurable improvements over the years," Mohaddes says.

"All of that has taken place against a backdrop of funding challenges. ITS is still growing. Nevertheless, we still face challenges when it comes to gaining adequate inclusion of ITS in the reauthorisation and passage of the Transportation Bill. Better appreciations of returns on investments or ITS's benefits would help greatly here and fortunately there are those who've embraced this.

"There are no silver bullets, though. We need capacity improvements and to improve throughputs. Empowering users with accurate, timely information is an essential part of that.

More efficient movement means more sustainable growth, a correlation which needs to be properly articulated." That means another evolution: away from 'either/or', where ITS competes over the same funding with traditional roadbuilding and other capacity increases.

Mohaddes: "Traditionally, ITS was seen as a threat but more and more there's an acceptance that the only way to increase capacity, in many cases, is to manage existing infrastructure better. My view is that at the end of the day we should all be looking to help the individual traveller, and that means multimodality.

"We need broad, comprehensive approaches. Physical infrastructure is only a part of the solution, whereas 30-40 years ago it was the only solution. There are big disparities in terms of rates of return on investment. An infrastructure investment of $1.00 in capacity increases in the form of road building realises perhaps $1.50-2.00 back, whereas an investment in technology of $1.00 realises perhaps $7.00-8.00 in return. Nevertheless, we have to do both and it's all about specific tools for regional needs."

End game

By the end of his tenure, Mohaddes says that he would really like to see ITS come to be accepted in much broader terms.

"I hope we'll have a situation where a much better-educated legislature, public officials and end users are aware of the benefits of ITS. I'd like also to see that extended to its use in daily life.

"At the same time, I'd really like to see ITS come to be regarded in a more broad, multimodal sense. At the moment, we have a situation where transit, commercial vehicle operations and even ports and waterways are seen as discrete entities with specific needs and challenges. I'd like to see a much more blended approach start to emerge, not least because many of the perceived differences are in fact similarities."

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